The meaning of Christmas has changed for me over recent years as my family has shrunk to barely a handful and the perfect gift is not found in a mall but truly is about getting out of town and discovering a new destination. Traveling abroad with my family has become a nice substitute for the holiday hubbub and Christmas to me is not about gift giving, it’s about who you are with.
Sometimes it's the best time to travel with a low turnout of tourists to many locales; however, not necessarily cheaper. Overtourism has been on my mind lately and as the UK’s Telegraph calls it, the “Disneyfication” of many cities hampers both visitors who really want an authentic experience and the locals who start to resent the tons of people that knock on their front door.
The Telegraph lists, Venice as being “far less packed, blessed with magic days of blue skies, and less expensive than in high season” and Barcelona where “winter tends to see dry, azure blue skies, and a lot of empty streets.”
Lonely Planet suggests that December can be "jam-packed with high-octane adventures, indulgent escapes, walks on the wild side and countless seasonal celebrations whisking you from the sunny Caribbean to Santa’s hometown.”
If you want some Christmas wonderlands, the Swedish village of Jukkasjärvi may fit the bill or getting lost over a cup of mulled wine in a festive market off the Laugavegur in Reykjavik, Iceland, can keep you lucid as you track down all the Yule Lads (pesky elves) hiding around every corner.
It can be a big party in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, where flaming torches, fireworks and all night long parties gush out onto the normally silent cobblestone streets. You can head over to Tallinn, Estonia, a medieval city covered in snow, with flickering candles lining the streets and markets hocking all sorts of holiday curiosities and festive treats.
However, if shoveling snow off your driveway in somewhere like, let’s say Boston, has you dreaming of warmer climates, heading south might be better. You can check out Peru’s Tambopata National Reserve, or for the more adventurous sort, trek your way across Patagonia’s beautiful Torres del Paine National Park. Or get to get really down and dirty, you can raft your way through Tasmania’s Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. Remember it’s summer Down Under if you can’t handle the cold this winter.
Travel and Leisure has their own list of cities to travel to, and include some suggestions on where to stay and where to eat a Christmas dinner. From the colonial town of Paraty, Brazil with its juxtaposition of beach and jungle to Quebec City which T&L says is the most romantic and as European as you can get on this side of the Atlantic.
Along with many listed above, US News and World Report also have Quebec City on their top 10, Prague being number one for festive celebrations.
For myself, I’m cruising down through the Caribbean. It’s my first trip through the locks of the Panama Canal, showing up in ports like the Cayman Islands and Jamaica. I’m looking forward to walking the streets of Old Town, Cartagena, Colombia and canoeing through the rain forests of Costa Rica. Having never been to Central America, cruising is a nice way for me to get a snapshot of something I might like to return to on a more extended stay as I mention in Cruising 101.
That reminds me, I only have a few weeks to research the ports and plan my excursions, my own and any ship-related so...
Now Get Lost!